This is our winning scholarship essay for 2021.  It was written by Jenna Basham of La Plata, New Mexico.  Jenna received the Mensa Foundation Karen Cooper Memorial Scholarship.

My sophomore year of high school my Grandpa was airlifted to Albuquerque after suffering complications from a pace maker insertion. Grandpa required twenty one units of blood, and spent weeks in the ICU. If he hadn't been flown to Albuquerque, he would not have survived. When he came back, my parents feared he lived too far from his cardiologist. In choosing his home, he made a decision about his health, about his life, and I realized it shouldn't be that way.

As I got older, my interest in medicine grew. After nearly losing my Grandpa, I knew that I wanted to make a difference as a physician in a rural community. This was, and is my ultimate goal. I was determined to live to serve. I started the Health Occupation Students of America club at my high school. I participated in activities to gain knowledge such as the Healthcare Careers Academy and Healers of Tomorrow. I shadowed physicians. I put myself in the shoes of those doctors, affirming that the spark of this calling burned truly for me.

Hearing the stories of patients in the clinic, I started to consider who else needed doctors. I live in a unique and diverse community, so if my family had been affected by the physician shortage, certainly there had to be others. I thought about other rural families, such as my classmates who live on the Navajo reservation and must travel to see a doctor. New Mexico is a special state with neighborhoods that can't be found anywhere else, and these communities must be represented in medicine. Each pocket of underserved, rural populations such as mine have different beliefs, traditions, and values that are celebrated within their borders, but one thing they all have in common is a desperate need for people to represent them and advocate for them in medicine. We all have beautiful stories, and they need to be heard.

While there are many ways to make an impact--inside of and beyond the realm of healthcare--I seek to be one of the diverse and dedicated advocates for better medicine in my own community. I am intent on seeing this goal of mine through. My determination to serve rural communities as a doctor was solidified after my mom was diagnosed with leukemia. My family experienced fear from the diagnosis, but also the relief of promising treatment and reassurance from the doctor. He was patient and caring. I want to be that kind of doctor; present for my patients, and compassionate. Rural areas need doctors not only for heart disease and cancer, but depression, diabetes and a thousand other issues. A simple CBC caught my mother's cancer early, this was only possible because someone made the same decision I'm making now. My experiences have heavily shaped my goals, and I will complete the demanding path to become a physician to work on behalf of my community.